Armchair Scheduling: The CW Fall 2012

The 2011-2012 season was a big one for The CW. Newly installed President Mark Pedowitz negotiated deals with both Netflix and Hulu to house CW content, and he made a concerted effort to limit the number of reruns on the network’s schedule by acquiring The LA Complex and ordering a handful of reality shows to fill out the summer schedule.

And yet, it’s hard not to look at this season as a failure for the network, which is down 14% year to year. After spending much of their promotional budget on Ringer, a pilot that CBS developed and discarded, they were forced to watch it open low and sink from there. Gossip Girl, once their flagship series, became their lowest rated scripted offering and the spring cycle of America’s Next Top Model was so poorly received that Tyra Banks chose to fire all those involved. In light of this, it’s easy to understand why Pedowitz ordered a record high 8 pilots with an eye towards giving as many as 6 of them the greenlight to series. Below, I try to sort out where your favorite CW shows will land of the network’s fall schedule.

Monday Night

8pm: Gossip Girl

9pm: The Carrie Diaries

Since The CW acquired the rights to The Carrie Diaries last summer, prevailing wisdom has suggested that the network would use New York based soap Gossip Girl to help launch it. That idea made sense to me when Gossip Girl was averaging 1.6 million viewers, but this season’s average will be much closer to 1.2 million. No longer the ratings magnet it once was, Gossip Girl should probably be held until midseason where a final 13 episode could be properly promoted, but I don’t think The CW will do that. Even though Hart of Dixie has been forced to self-start at 9pm for much of this season, I still see Gossip Girl back in the fall leading into the network’s most anticipated pilot. The Carrie Diaries is bound to have its critics but its a known property with a dynamite lead in AnnaSophia Robb. Moreover, the 80s setting makes it different from anything else on the broadcast landscape.

Tuesday Night

8pm: Hart of Dixie

9pm: The First Cut

Easily the least promoted of their 2011-2012 debuts, Hart of Dixie has proven to be a capable performer for the network. On the typically less competitive Tuesday night, Dixie could prove to be a valuable asset and quality lead-in for the network’s new medical drama The First Cut. On paper, The First Cut sounds strikingly similar to Grey’s Anatomy, which would make it poor tonal companion for Dixie. But, creator Jennie Snyder Urman has spent most of her career writing for dramedies like Gilmore Girls and Men Trees. Also working in The First Cut‘s favor are the litany of familiar faces in front of the camera, including Mammie Gummer, Michael Rady, Justin Hartley and Jack Coleman.

Wednesday Night

8pm: 90210

9pm: America’s Next Top Model

The CW has already renewed both 90120 and America’s Next Top Model for next year, but neither is coming off a particularly strong season. Still, if 90210 ends it’s season with Dixon’s life hanging in the balance, it’ll likely see a ratings bump in the fall. Similarly, America’s Next Top Model is likely to attract new viewers with a College Co-Eds Edition and a new panel of judges. I assume Tyra Banks already has people in mind for the judging chairs, but I’d like to suggest Lauren Conrad. On Ryan Seacrest’s radio show this weekend, she expressed an interest in returning to TV. And, she has a diehard fan base who continue to by her novels. Anyway, that’s tangential. I suspect 90120 gets shifted to Wednesdays because none of their pilots pair with it well. Then again, The CW paired it with Ringer this year.

Thursday Night

8pm: The Vampire Diaries

9pm: Arrow

The Vampire Diaries is The CW’s biggest hit. What do you pair with your biggest hit? The pilot you think has the best chance of becoming a hit. This year that show is Arrow. A compelling case could be made that both The Selection and Cult would have more audience overlap with TVD, but a lack of audience overlap didn’t stop The CW from slotting Nikita behind TVD two years ago.

Friday Night

8pm: Nikita

9pm: Supernatural

Friday nights likely go unchanged, as Supernatural has already been renewed and Nikita is a foreign cash cow. If this night is changed, it’s because upper management decided The Secret Circle was a more valuable property than Nikita.

Midseason

The Secret Circle

Cult

The Selection

Beauty and the Beast

I refuse to accept the notion that The CW would cancel their highest rated new drama, even its ratings have been depressed over the last 4 weeks. That said, I can see them holding The Secret Circle for midseason, if they think Hart of Dixie gives them a stronger lead-in to launch The First Cut and Nikita provides more stability on Friday nights. With Cult expected to film 13 episode seasons, it stands to reason they would hold it for midseason. They may also see value in holding back The Selection, while awareness of the book continues to grow. I actually think The Secret Circle and The Selection would pair nicely. Alas, The CW only has so many hours of programming available in the fall. Should Mark Pedowitz and his team decide to order a 6th pilot to series, buzz seems to be in Beauty and the Beast‘s favor. I can’t say that pilot appeals to me in the slightest. I’d much rather see the Mark Schwahn/JJ Abrams pilot Shelter go to series, but buzz on that has been nonexistent.

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